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In this state of mind he could not have communicated to any one the reason for the absence which in some quarters he was obliged to mention beforehand, least of all to Mordecai, whom it would affect as powerfully as it did himself, only in rather a different way. If he were to say, “I am going to learn the truth about my birth,” Mordecai's hope would gather what might prove a painful, dangerous excitement. To exclude suppositions, he spoke of his journey as being undertaken by Sir Hugo's wish, and threw as much indifference as he could into his manner of announcing it, saying he was uncertain of its duration, but it would perhaps be very short.
“I will ask to have the child Jacob to stay with me,” said Mordecai, comforting himself in this way, after the first mournful glances.
“I will drive round and ask Mrs Cohen to let him come,” said Mirah.
“The grandmother will deny you nothing," said Deronda. “I'm glad you were a little wrong as well as I,” he added, smiling at Mordecai. “You thought that old Mrs Cohen would not bear to see Mirah.”
“I undervalued her heart,” said Mordecai. “She is capable of rejoicing that another's plant blooms though her own be withered.”
Oh, they are dear good people; I feel as if we all belonged to each other,” said Mirah, with a tinge of merriment in her smile.
“What should you have felt if that Ezra had been your brother ?” said Deronda, mischievously
a little provoked that she had taken kindly at once to people who had caused him so much prospective annoyance on her account.
Mirah looked at him with a slight surprise for a moment, and then said, “ He is not a bad manI think he would never forsake any one.
But when she had uttered the words she blushed deeply, and glancing timidly at Mordecai, turned away to some occupation. Her father was in her mind, and this was a subject on which she and her brother had a painful mutual consciousness. “If he should come and find us !" was a thought which to Mirah sometimes made the street daylight as shadowy as a haunted forest where each turn screened for her an imaginary apparition.
Deronda felt what was her involuntary allusion, and understood the blush. How could he be slow to understand feelings which now seemed nearer than ever to his own for the words of his mother's letter implied that his filial relation was not to be freed from painful conditions ; indeed, singularly enough that letter which had brought his mother nearer as a living reality had thrown her into more remoteness for his affections. The tender yearning after a being whose life might have been the worse for not having his care and love, the image of a mother who had not had all her dues whether of reverence or compassion, had long been secretly present with him in his observation of all the women he had come near. But it seemed now that this picturing of his mother might fit the facts no better than his former conceptions about Sir Hugo. He wondered to find that when this mother's very handwriting had come to him with words holding her actual feeling, his affections had suddenly shrunk into a state of comparative neutrality towards her. A veiled figure with enigmatic speech had thrust away that image which, in spite of uncertainty, his clinging thought had gradually modelled and made the possessor of his tenderness and duteous longing. When he set off to Genoa, the interest really uppermost in his mind had hardly so much relation to his mother as to Mordecai and Mirah.
“God bless you, Dan !" Sir Hugo had said, when they shook hands. “Whatever else changes for you, it can't change my being the oldest friend you have known, and the one who has all along felt the most for you. I couldn't have loved you better if you'd been my own-only I should have been better pleased with thinking of you always as the future master of the Abbey instead of my fine nephew; and then you would have seen it necessary for you to take a political line. However-things must be as they may." It was a defensive measure of the baronet's to mingle purposeless remarks with the expression of serious feeling.
When Deronda arrived at the Italia in Genoa, no Princess Halm-Eberstein was there; but on the second day there was a letter for him, saying that her arrival might happen within a week, or might be deferred a fortnight and more: she was under circumstances which made it impossible for her to fix her journey more precisely, and she entreated him to wait as patiently as he could.
With this indefinite prospect of suspense on matters of supreme moment to him, Deronda set about the difficult task of seeking amusement on philosophic grounds, as a means of quieting excited feeling and giving patience a lift over a weary road. His former visit to the superb city had been only cursory, and left him much to learn beyond the prescribed round of sight-seeing, by spending the cooler hours in observant wandering about the streets, the quay, and the environs; and he often took a boat that he might enjoy the magnificent view of the city and harbour from the sea. All sights, all subjects, even the expected meeting with his mother, found a central union in Mordecai and Mirah, and the ideas immediately associated with them; and among the thoughts that most filled his mind while his boat was pushing about within view of the grand harbour was that of the multitudinous Spanish Jews centuries ago driven destitute from their Spanish homes, suffered to land from the crowded ships only for brief rest on this grand quay of Genoa, overspreading it with a pall of famine and plague-dying mothers with dying children at their breasts-fathers and sons agaze at each other's haggardness, like groups from a hundred Hunger-towers turned out beneath the mid-day sun. Inevitably, dreamy constructions of a possible ancestry for himself would weave themselves with historic memories which had begun to have a new interest for him on his discovery of Mirah, and now, under the influence of Mordecai, had become irresistibly dominant.